1-20-10: Notes

Hello again everybody...

Happy Hump Day to you all. I've actually got a two-day weekend coming up, so it really is all downhill from here for me this week.

No, our crack management hasn't quite gotten around to hiring another Coordinator yet. Who'd have thought that visit to the diversity fair on MLK Day wouldn't have resulted in an instant hire?! But hey, I don't work for NBC. So there's that...

Ahem... Move on already? You're right...

I'll be honest with you at the outset. I'm struggling to find material for today. There's news with the Wild, but I'm not sure it's all that controversial. I'll opine as best I can, but don't expect a lengthy read today.

After that, I have no clue what I'll be writing about. Not the greatest way to start a column, but hey, they can't all be winners, right?!


”Punctuality is the virtue of the bored.”
- Evelyn Waugh (1903 - 1966), English writer

That's English as in “emanating from England”, not pointing out that he wrote in English. If that were the case, I could dub myself an “English writer”. Though I'm sure some of you would take issue even with that.

Can you tell I'm trying to fill space? Unsuccessfully? Right...

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Time for some...

Wednesday Notes

So what was your favorite Petr Sykora moment?

Petr, oh Petr, we hardly knew you!

After being a “healthy scratch” for weeks on end, the Wild and Sykora have finally parted ways. The forward voted “most in need of buying a vowel” was placed on waivers the other day. Technically that doesn't mean he'd have to be gone from the Wild, but based on indications from management, he will be.

If you want a more specific explanation, I can't do better than the Strib's Michael Russo did here.

In fact, I sometimes feel embarrassed writing about hockey at all. I read Russo religiously and follow him on Twitter for links to his prolific writing. Half the time, when I start to write hockey, I feel like just linking you to his blog and columns.

I love hockey. And I'm lucky to have the special access that I do to a world class facility to watch so many games. But even with that, I don't know a 1/10th of what Russo does. Hell, I don't know a 1/10th of what some of my fellow Wild fans on Twitter do.

But I do my best to entertain you with the knowledge I have.

To whit, I don't think Sykora did anything wrong. I don't think there was any specific animosity between Petr and Coach Richards. It just wasn't the right situation. Sykora signed late in the off-season, got hurt early and often, and was just never able to get into the flow of the Wild's roster.

It wasn't going to be fair to him to keep scratching him. So GM Chuck Fletcher took the only/best option left to him and put Sykora on waivers.

Russo has dubbed Sykora a “Top 6” forward, and who am I to argue? So it sucks to lose a guy of Sykora's potential, especially on a club that's not deep in that kind of talent.

But if Richards wasn't going to be able to find the right spot for him, I guess this is what had to happen.

I know there are going to be a lot of people critical of the way the Wild has handled this situation. And certainly signing a guy late who turns out to contribute virtually nothing is a situation which deserves scrutiny at least.

Usually these things have to be judged in the long term, however. If Fletcher and Richards get the Wild to a point where they can make a deep playoff run in a few years, then they'll be excused for a bump or two in the road along the way.

If not, then it's mistakes like the Sykora situation that will ultimately be the epitaph on their time with the Wild.

Sure it's more fun to declare them bumbling fools now, but I don't think that's terribly fair. They're not the first administration to whiff on a free agent signing, and they won't be the last.

The Twins have signed all their arbitration-eligible players....

Yep, I'm definitely stretching today.

But since the Twins are my favorite team, I feel the need to comment on it.

Pitchers Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Francisco Liriano, Pat Neshek and Carl Pavano, infielders J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris, and outfielder Delmon Young all signed new contracts with the Twins on Tuesday. Harris' deal was the only one longer than one year (Brendan signed a two year deal).

Pavano and Guerrier were the big winners. Carl will make $7 million next season, while Guerrier will more than double his 2009 salary.

The rest of the freshly re-signed Twins all received healthy bumps in their paychecks. Hardy will make $5.1 million, Liriano $1.6 million, Crain $2 million, Neshek $665,000 and Delmon Young $2.6 million.

None of those contracts are grossly out of line, and it's always nice to get your players signed without having to enter the wacky world of arbitration. If a contract negotiation ends up in front of an arbiter, the process usually gets acrimonious to the point where it's well worth it to avoid it if you can.

So where do the Twins stand right now?

They've still got a large question mark at third base. Joe Crede is still in the mix, though the Twins are likely to be very cautious after watching him miss so many games last year. Brendan Harris is clearly an option in Bill Smith's mind, or there's no reason to sign him to a two-year deal. I suppose Nick Punto could play there some if needed.

Any way you cut it, the Twins either need to sign somebody, or get prospect Danny Valencia ready for the majors sooner than later. There's been a hole at the hot corner for too many years in Minnesota. It's time to get that taken care of.

Another question mark is what form the starting rotation is going to take. Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Carl Pavano and (presuming he's healthy) Kevin Slowey are locks for the rotation. That only leaves the 5th spot. Fortunately for the Twins they've got a lot of candidates to choose from. Brian Duensing certainly earned a shot at it given his performance down the stretch. According to reports, Francisco Liriano has been dominant in winter leagues, so he's in the mix. And though there have been reports that he's on the trade block, Glen Perkins is still technically available for the Twins should they decide to hang onto him.

I realize none of these names equal the kinds of “sure things” fans might like to see signed from the free agent market. But trust me, there are lot of teams that would like to have the pitching problems the Twins have in terms of trying to fit guys into spots.

Finally, of course, is Baby Jesus' contract status. On the plus-side, both Mauer and the Twins have declared their intentions to keep any and all negotiations out of the press. This is a good thing, since it prevents mis-communications and “interpretations” on the part of the media. It's also a bad thing, since it means we have no idea where the negotiations stand.

I've said it before, but the best-case scenario for Twins fans is to get this deal done prior to Spring Training. Otherwise, that's all anybody's going to be asking about come March. And heaven help us if it drags on into the season. It's not a distraction anybody needs. And can we please not try one of these “we're not going to negotiate til after the season” things?! Sorry folks, but that never works. Players and management can say that all they want. The only thing that stops those questions is a signed contract.

I'm starting to stress myself out over this situation again, so I'll digress...

Actually, I'll just put a bow on this thing. Sorry that there wasn't much to talk about today, but these things happen. I'll be back on Friday with the usual end of the week nonsense. Hopefully I'll have a little more to say by then!

Until then, thanks for reading!

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